I started smoking when I was 15 and working at Sonic with a bunch of older kids that I thought were cool. I quit last January, so this is my first Fall without. You know how changes in weather make you remember previous years? I remember last year - sitting out on my porch in the nice, crisp weather, smoking cigarettes and talking to B. I also remember sitting outside of my work with friends and hot tea and having a nice break. So even though I am past the physical addiction to nicotine, the mental addiction is still there, and I REALLY want a cigarette. B quit at the same time, and I wonder if he is feeling the same thing, because he got a package in the mail yesterday - apparently he went on the internet and bulk-ordered about 20 packs of Altoid mints and candies.

Quitting smoking requires massive amounts of things to put in your mouth. So in honor of having not smoked for 300 days (not that I'm counting), here is a recipe for Spicy Sweet Pumpkin Seeds.

1 medium pumpkin
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 250 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the pumpkin open and remove the seeds with a long-handled metal spoon. Wash the pumpkin seeds to remove all the pulp, and shake in a sieve to remove excess moisture. Spread the seeds on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Let cool.

In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Cook until sugar melts and pumpkin seeds begin to caramelize, about 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer to bowl with spices, and stir well to coat. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Makes about 1 cup.


"Centipedes and millipedes are distant relatives of lobsters, crayfish and shrimp."
"Centipedes pose a threat to man because they have poison glands and will bite."
"A centipede, Scolopendra heros, occurs in Texas and may be over 5 inches long when full grown."
Yuck. Here is a (very bad) picture of my porch door-jam this morning:

It was about three inches long and had very scary looking pincers. When I first moved to this apartment three years ago from East Riverside Drive, I thought it would be very nice to be so close to the greenbelt and nature. Then I discovered scorpions. And foot-long walking sticks. And skunks. And huge spiders. And the smell of deer poop. And now centipedes.

There was a time when I dreamed about living in the country, near my grandparents. Now I know better.


If you haven't heard of The Streets, you should check it out. The band consists of a single guy from Birmingham (UK, not Alabama), Mike Skinner. He produced his first album single-handedly in his parents' basement. I don't think I can put this in any specific genre. It is: cockney, hip-hop, R&B, pop, techno. The lyrics are very clever and gritty and all those other words that critics like, and the timing is charmingly off-kilter and awkward in a way that makes me think of both Nick Cave and various 'outlaw country' artists. The first album, Original Pirate Material, is pretty good as a whole, and has a few songs that are great. The second album, A Grand Don't Come For Free, is on a whole different level. It's a concept album where each song is a snap-shot in a guy's life. Put together, the album is both a discreet story, and a portrait. Some of the songs are hilarious - this is from a song about a fight with his girlfriend:
Don't try and gimme that shit, right?
'Cos, d'you know what I mean?
You're not exactly...fuckin'..y'know..d'you know what I mean?
It don't really matter anymore, d'you know what I mean?
It's hard enough to remember my opinions without remembering my reasons for them
You're confusing me now
I'm not gonna give you an example
I can't remember an example
You do it all the time
You know, that thing that you do
I...look, I can't remember when you last did it can I?
Other songs are so beautiful that they make me want to cry (see Dry Your Eyes and I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way). Even the songs that don't initially seem to make much impression somehow stay with you. This is definitely not background music. Every time a song comes on the random play on my iPod I either have to stop and listen or skip to the next song. You can't ignore it.

The only downside? I've learned enough British slang to annoy everyone around me.
Right now I am reading a book called Good Behavior by Molly Keane. This is the cover:

The back reads:
Behind the gates of Temple Alice the aristocratic Anglo-Irish St Charles family sinks into a decaying grace. To Aroon St Charles, large and unlovely daughter of the house, the fierce forces of sex, money, jealousy and love seem locked out by the ritual patterns of good behaviour. But crumbling codes of conduct cannot hope to save the members of the St Charles family from their own unruly and inadmissible desires.
It's not a romance novel, I swear. But it sure looks like one. So right now, I have serious book shame. I always have my current book on my desk at work to read during lunch or whenever I take breaks. This week, I've been hiding it under papers. When someone found it and looked it over (with raised eyebrows) I blurted out desperately that it was nominated for the Booker award in 1981! Really! The cover is a complete misrepresentation! I don't think she believed me.

Now, I'm going to have to start dragging around something Russian to restore my reputation.

By the way, it isn't even very good.



I recently finished my Fitzgerald kick (F. Scott & co., at least). I finally realized that I was scraping the bottom of the barrel when I was reading a biography of Scott and Zelda's daughter, Scottie (who was, however, a very interesting person in her own right). I am now back to working on my "to be read" stack (which has grown to an entire bookshelf of its own in the last year or so):

The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson: What would have happened had 99% of Europeans been wiped out by the plague, rather than 30%? This is an alternative history where Chinese and Muslim empires vie for dominance and India gets stuck in the middle. The story is told from an interesting perspective - the same group of characters are reincarnated over and over again to witness defining moments in history (thankfully, Robinson keeps the same first initial for each of the characters to help with tracking). The first half of the book is all kinds of speculative fun and the second half feels more like a meditation on the philosophy of history. I think this book would have received much more attention had Robinson not been a sci-fi writer.

The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald (no connection, I swear): I read this book based on a not-extremely-enthusiastic review on my brother-in-law's blog. It is a tiny, precise book (only 123 pages), and that saves it from being overly empty and depressing. It has nothing good to say about human nature, but it does have some suprisingly insightful characters. Overall, I'm neutral.

A Little History of the World, by E.H. Gombrich: This is an overview of world history written for children in Austria in the 30s, before the author moved to England to escape Hitler's invasion. Gombrich, much more famous for this, never allowed A Little History to be published in English before now. He is said to have thought that the English would not be interested in a history from a European point of view. I'm not really sure why I'm reading it, except that I was curious. So far, the conversational writing style is delightful, the maps are interesting, and I'm remembering how much of my world history class I've forgotten.

Not the End of the World
, by Kate Atkinson: This is a book of short stories along the lines of Arabian Nights. I can't say any more about that particular plot device without including a spoiler alert, so I won't. However, I will say this: I thought it was impossible to find good short stories anymore, but I was wrong. These are perfectly crafted collisions of the mundane and the surreal. They have a little bit of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez flavor, but in a very British way. Does that make any sense at all? I didn't think so.

I'm also reading this and this, but I can't recommend either. Someday, I will rant about the absolute idiocy of the TSBPA's educational requirements, but not today. Lucky for you.


When I was in high school, my whole life fell apart. My family fell apart and I did some really stupid things that changed my life and that I am still recovering from. As bad as it was, it could have been much worse. I think one of the things that kept me from doing stupider things than I did was the support and (usually unheeded) guidance from adults outside of the drama that was happening in my family (two of whom are probably reading this - thanks). All of that made me want to try and provide that same type of support for someone else, so I am going to mentor a little girl at a local disadvantaged elementary school through Austin Partners in Education. It's a very scary thing for me - I'm not at all a social person, and it is always a fight and a struggle to keep myself engaged with the outside world. By agreeing to be Chloe's mentor, I am cutting off my choice to retreat because I couldn't stand to disappoint her.

However, as terrifying as it is, I think it will be worth it. We have only met twice so far, but I think it will work out. She is a lot like me - shy, scared, and a bookworm. The second time I came to see her, I peeked into her classroom. When she saw me, she got a huge smile on her face, yelled my name, and came running across the room to hug me. It made all the scariness and the time and the effort absolutely worth it. The first time we met, I made her an origami flower and she asked me to teach her how to make things like that. This is her first try - isn't it great? She even made it a 'pond' to live in, and drew food in it. Then she insisted that I take it back to work with me so that I wouldn't forget her.


Yesterday, B and I put an offer on a house. I feel like I'm methodically going down the checklist of conventional adulthood. College? check. Professional job? check. Marriage? check. House? check.

It seems like a very natural progression, and I'm generally very happy with the way my life is turning out. I just never saw myself doing all of those things. More and more, I see cycles and repetition in everything. It seems impossible to break out. Nor does it seem desirable to break out, but some deep-down cynical part of me is rebelling.

Wow, this is very quickly turning into some pretty serious navel-gazing. Anyway, I think I'm gonna buy a house! Cool!


Harry and the Potters. You can listen to some of the songs here. I especially recommend The Human Hosepipe. They are playing in Austin on November 9th - I think I might show up...
From MSNBC's Hardball - Howard Dean's freudian mishap

MATTHEWS: Do you believe that the president can claim executive privilege?

DEAN: Well, certainly the president can claim executive privilege. But in the this case, I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it's called. He's got to go out there and say something about this woman who's going to a 20 or 30-year appointment, a 20 or 30-year appointment to influence America. We deserve to know something about her.


These people are protesting near my building this morning. Apparently, the ad company across the street made some commercials for the air force and some people equate that with war profiteering. My building is a good place to see protests. There are lots of politically active companies in the area, and the bookstore across the street frequently has controversial book signings and/or readings. Mostly, I enjoy seeing protestors. They are always so fervent and engaged. You never see a bored protestor.

(This is from when Bill Clinton was signing books across the street)


Say this out loud - trust me, it will make your mouth happy.

Paris' Pompidou Defies Dadaism Prediction
What a great story! It almost restores my faith in humanity. Almost. But not quite.


Sharing my Saturday

Link recommendation: Color in Motion

Music recommendation(s): Carla Bruni and Antony and the Johnsons

Book recommendation: Scottie - The Daughter of...

Food recommendation: Lemon Melts

Tea recommendation: Dejoo Assam

Word recommendation: Decadent

What better browsing on a Saturday morning than the history of mens underwear?